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New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4

Putting a human, artistic face on a savage European conflict and showing off two stars of ballet. 

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Kyiv City Ballet in a scene from Pavlo Virksy’s “Men of Kyiv,” part of New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4 (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The fourth of the five New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022 programs maintained the tried-and-true formula of commingling different forms of dance.  This particular program was of great interest—for both good and questionable reasons— because it included a performance of the Kyiv City Ballet from beleaguered and bereft Ukraine.  The curiosity to see this troupe was, of course, more than artistic.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase.  The Kyiv City Ballet presented two very different dances, one a dreary modern ballet and the other an exuberant folk dance that brought the audience to its feet.

The first of these two was a long excerpt from Thoughts, choreographed and led by the very attractive Vladyslav Dobshynskyi who is the first dancer seen, bathed in a very complimentary spotlight (dramatic lighting by Egor Budkin).  The pale, nearly white, loose outfits (by Olena Ivashchenko) moved well.  Dobshynskyi was bare-chested, the others all covered.

Kyiv City Ballet in a scene from Vladyslav Dobshynskyi’s “Thoughts,” part of New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4 (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

Extremely repetitious, Thoughts pitted Dobshynskyi and his partner against a large corps de ballet that constantly shape-shifted around the two.  There were hints of deeper meaning there:  two innocents beleaguered by the community; an ominous, controlling crowd forcing its will on these two helpless victims.  Whatever the choreography meant to imply, the results were heavy-handed and very limited choreographically:  mostly walking or running around the couple who hit some balletic poses.

Men of Kyiv, choreographed to high-spirited traditional folk music by Pavlo Virsky, pitted two groups of men—one wearing blue T-shirts, the other yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian national flag—against each other in a friendly, boisterous competition which began with a high-kicking entrance mazurka.  This was followed by one exhibition of prowess after another:  barrel turns, high cheerleader jumps, kazatskis, split leaps and unison chain dances.  It was almost as exhausting to watch as it was to dance and it left the audience totally in love with this good-natured dance troupe.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company opened the program with an enigmatic work called Indestructible. Choreographed by Abby Zbikowski to an intermittent screeching score by Death Grips, it pitted the seven dancers, dressed in L’Amour Ameer’s vivid variations on street clothes, against each other in not so friendly competition.

Dayton  Contemporary Dance Company in a scene from Abby Zbikowski’s  “Indestructible,” part of New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4 (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

On a stage bare to the back wall, lit by decoratively hung lamps (dramatic lighting by Matthew J. Evans) the performers entered at first singly as off-stage voices grunted and shouted.  Slowly solos became duets and trios running through the entire repertoire of hip-hop steps: popping, jerking, breaking, etc.

Indestructible morphed more into a series of bravura demonstrations than a ballet that was clearly meant to project a community of people expressing themselves the best way they could.  There was little evidence of structure or emotional depth.  In fact, quite the opposite with the dancers egging each other on with unemotional counting rather than exuberant shout outs.

The pretty bow on this package of three works was The Two of Us, a duet choreographed by the esteemed Christopher Wheeldon to Joni Mitchell songs for ballet superstars, Sara Mearns and Robbie (formerly Robert) Fairchild.

Sara Mearns and Robbie Fairchild in a scene from Christopher Wheeldon’’s “The Two of Us,”  part of New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4 (Photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

Dressed in pale, flowing one-piece outfits designed by Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme and subtly lit by Kate Ashton, The Two of Us unspooled at a leisurely pace, showing both the technical and expressive qualities of each of these two charismatic dancers.

This was not a virtuoso piece, but a contemplative one in which each dancer had an expressive, wispy solo and two tries at connecting, never quite achieving a lasting connection.  Wheeldon gave each dancer illuminating gestures that revealed underlying moods and thoughts as their arms moved through space, their bodies gently twisting and their legs completing telling poses.  This was a gentle treat of a duet.

The next-to-the-last Fall for Dance 2022 program was, at least catholic, in its view of the dance world and it did introduce the Ukrainian dancers to New York City.

New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022 (through October 2, 2022)

131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.NYCityCenter.org

Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including one intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (466 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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